In this series of interviews we will be looking at BJJ businesses and the entrepreneurs that run them. First up is tournament software company Smoothcomp.
Smoothcomp was launched in 2015 and is a tournament software hosted in the cloud that helps to organize registrations, brackets, clubs, matches, coaches and fighters.
It was created by Martin Varghult, Ricard Carneborn and Martin Janson. Like many many entrepreneurs they discoved a business in trying to solve a problem. They developed the embryo for Smoothcomp while hosting the Swedish Open BJJ tournament after. Their mission is to help other organizers, fighters and coaches all over the world to have a better tournament experience.
- How did the idea for Smoothcomp come about?
Ricard and Martin J have been running events for years in their respective hometowns, the Swedish Open and the Nordic Open – today the largest tournaments in Scandinavia with a long tradition. As the tournaments grew, so did the administration. This actually made Martin J consider stop hosting the Swedish Open because of the workload. But thanks to Martin V (who train with Martin J) we had an embryo of a system working in 2014 that solved some of the issues but far from all. During 2015 Nordic and Swedish Open decided to create software to make our events work better.
The work went well, we launched the fall of 2015 with not only good tech – thanks to Martin V and his team of developers – but we also managed to integrate all the organisational ideas and methods we have gathered from our experience as organisers. After a couple of events we decided to test the waters by opening up the system to the market and now 2 years later we are present on all continents and have close to 200 organisers working the system.
- What problems did you previously experience when trying to organise and run BJJ tournaments
All sorts really, one of the hardest parts are the week before the event, answering emails/phone calls to help changing weights, team names, making excel brackets, updating online. Last week administration is really one of the toughest and most underestimated parts of doing events.
But also, the most common question “excuse me, when is my fight?” from hundreds of fighters can be demanding during live events.
Results posting after the event is also something that we had at the top of the list to solve.
- Will smoothcomp remain in the grappling niche or have you considered expanding to other competition sports?
At the moment we focus our energy on all competition sports although since we do grappling our self we tend to expand a lot quicker there. But we already run events in Karate, Judo, Tae kwon do, Muay Thai, MMA and Jujutsu as well.
- I see that many of the upcoming competitions on Smoothcomp are Submission wrestling and Sub only style. Is there a trend away from Gi competitions or is there just more variety now?
We have seen sub only no gi format take off recently and many organisers use EBI as a rule set, however we have many large “gi + no gi” circuits coming on board so I would not say that Gi is in decline from what I can tell in our short history.
- In what ways are you currently promoting Smoothcomp?
The biggest part is the presence at the events, we see that everytime we hit a new location with a successful event from one of our organisers we get new sales leads from someone who attended. Experiencing the system first hand seems to be the most powerful marketing we have. But we have started slowly with Facebook and Google as well.
- Has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu taught you any lessons that you think have stood you well in your professional life?
Maybe the thought that “there must be a way to solve this puzzle” Challenges constantly arise in any situation, and Jiu-jitsu have thought us that there is a solution somewhere, you just need to find it.
- How do you balance your time between training and working?
Of course you always have the challenge of balancing training and work, as well as family life. But training has always been a central part of what we do, and teaching, training and
organising events are a big part of our everyday life so it´s important to keep going.
- Do you encourage your own students to compete?
Yes we do, although competition is never forced upon anyone, I believe that if you do BJJ you should at least have tried competing before you decide if it is something that fits you or not. The experience from the competition mat is hard to create in another environment. But then again not all people have the same goals and that is something you have to respect as a teacher.
- What are Smoothcomps goals for the next 3 years?
We have A LOT of features on our roadmap, so I would say development wise we know exactly where we want and in regards to market we want to continue revolutionize the competition experience for the martial artists everywhere and I believe reaching 10 times our current size would be a realistic goal if we continue our current pace and making larger impact on other martial arts in the same way we have with the grappling scene.